SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Gators Love Marshmallows!

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September is marshmallow month!

 

Just got back from Bouchercon 2016 held in New Orleans, LA. It was my first visit to this haunted city – and I loved it. Tropical heat, “painted-lady” mansions, ornate ironwork, fin de siècle French cafes, crass voodoo shops (gruesome made in China shrunken heads), a streetcar really named Desire, antique neon signs, fab music…the list is endless.

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Voodoo & 24/7 beer
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French quarter

A bar culture shocking to a Canadian. Alcohol is freely available 24/7. Walgreen’s Drugstore sports shelves and shelves of bourbon. People wander freely about the streets drinking – as long as the container is plastic.

 

But what did I really want to see? GATORS!IMG_0814Swamp tours out of New Orleans end up at a nature conservancy about an hour’s drive out of the city.  Tourists are loaded into flat-bottomed boats named, somewhat disturbingly, Gatorbait!

Hopefully not you
Hopefully not you
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Rusty drawbridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guide climbs on board the Gatorbait carrying a bag of marshmallows.  This is not, as we first suppose, a cheap snack for us. No, kiddies, this is the true gator bait!  As we are soon to learn, gators love marshmallows. And propelled by their powerful tails, they will jump out of the water for a hotdog on a stick. After all, hotdogs look just like tourist fingers!

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Our guide tosses a marshmallow onto the brown brackish water. Impossible to know what lurks beneath the surface.  It looks so bland and boring. Until two beady primordial eyes glide to the surface and snap! We’re back in the days of the dinosaurs.

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Where’s my candy?
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Pant like a dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, who cares if the sugar rots the gators’ teeth or clogs their arteries? Gators aren’t endangered, the guide tells us. They’re farmed locally, from eggs collected at the nature preserve. Otherwise the gators would eat them, a twisted sort of birth control. In fact, that’s why they love marshmallows. The candy looks just like gator eggs!

In fact, gators will eat just about anything smaller than them, especially baby alligators. (More birth control.)  Someone asks the guide if they eat humans. “Oh, no” he says. “My buds and I swim and jet ski all through the bayou. They’re a lot more scared of us than we are of them.”

Sure.

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Wild hog
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White egret

 

 

 

 

 

Other denizens of the swamp share the gators’ sweet tooth: an egret, a blue heron and a baby wild hog who chomps away at the mushy treats with a wary eye on a nearby, avariciously hungry baby gator.

More interesting facts: gators are territorial (no kidding), they cool off by panting like dogs, food rots in their stomachs if the weather gets too cold and they can live to be 100 years old.  Reminds me of certain presidential candidates…

For breakfast we sample gator sausage. Hmm. A bit dry with a taste reminiscent of the mystery meat served up in university cafeterias. Better to eat than to be eaten though…

Viva New Orleans!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BIG NEWS: Cover for Glow Grass and Other Tales

 Greetings Readers!

BIG REVEAL!

Here is the cover of my new book, Glow Grass and Other Tales (Carrick Publishing). With thanks and hugs and kisses to my fav cover artist, Sara Carrick.

Cyber launch date soon.  I’ll be doing a print launch with Rosemary Aubert in October / November. Stand by for dates and details.

glowgrass

 

 

TOP 10 FAV NOIR FILMS!

Really looking forward to Noir at the Bar at Bouchercon on September 14th in gothic New Orleans!

I’m a visual writer. I fell in love with the movies at age 3.  As a teenager, I fell under the spell of noir cinema: tough settings criss-crossed with black shadows, peopled with sinners doing horrible things to each other – what was not to love?

So in honour of Noir at the Bar, here are my Top 10 Fav Noir Films. Most centre on strong, complex female characters. Their striking settings are often surreal and have stayed in my mind forever.  The characters get justice even if that justice is harsh and twisted. And almost all feature devastating endings with a darkly satiric edge.

So here’s my list. I’d love to hear from you about your 10 Fav Film Noirs.

10.  thBLOOD SIMPLE (Joel & Ethan Coen) – The debut film of the Coen brothers who developed the story from Dashiel Hammett’s phrase “blood simple” meaning crazed by violence. 

An  unpleasant man hires a shady PI to murder his wife and her lover. Things naturally go awry with a literally harrowing murder scene that rivals the death of Rasputin. One of the best exit lines ever, delivered by veteran character actor, M. Emmet Walsh whose performance oozes sleaze.

 

9.   LadyfromS LADY FROM SHANGHAI (Orson Welles) – Orson Welles ran out of money trying to stage a musical version of Around the World in 80 Days. He  allegedly pitched The Lady from Shanghai to Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn while  looking at the cover of a pulp novel he’d never read. It’s a “who’s gonna kill who” thriller with adult dialogue sparked with sharp-edged barbs.

Welles invented the final shoot-out in a fun house of mirrors, a  sequence that’s become standard in action and horror films. Nearly 70 years later, Welles’s original remains the best.

 

8.   SorrywrongnumberSORRY WRONG NUMBER (Anton Litvak) – A spoiled, bed-ridden  heiress overhears a murder plot on her telephone. Through a series of phone conversations with strangers and her unhappy husband, she realizes the thugs are about to murder her

Based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher, the film works because of  its unusual plot structure and a terrific performance by Barbara Stanwyck as the woman you love to hate.

A devastatingly satisfying one-line ending: “Sorry, wrong number.”

 

 

7.   Mildred-Pierce-One-SheetMILDRED PIERCE (Michael Curtiz) – Based on the novel by master noir writer, James M. Cain.  The film depicts  the rise and fall of businesswoman, Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford).

Abandoned by her husband, Mildred battles poverty and  terrible grief to support her family.  Against all odds, she becomes rich, but her insatiable drive to join high society ends up destroying what she fought so hard to save: her family.  A remarkable film even in 2016,  because the tragic hero is a woman rather than a man.

 

 

6.   220px-Vertigomovie_restorationVERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock) – A masterpiece mystery thriller that shows how a grippingly profound story can be created with a minimum of characters. The film explores the destructive power of self-delusion and mental illness at a visceral level.

A law officer develops vertigo after a nearly fatal fall. His phobia makes him the victim of a diabolical plot. James Stewart is at his best as the unsympathetic hero: even Hitchcock’s heavily artificial camera work, invented to mimic vertigo, does the job. One of the best and most devastating movie endings of all time!

 

5. THE THIRD MAN th(Carol Reed) A thriller filmed on location in the rubble of post-WWII Vienna. It goes beyond genre in examining business corruption, betrayal and the tragedy of misplaced loyalty. 

Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), a broke pulp fiction writer, travels to Vienna to meet his old friend, Harry Lime, who’s promised him a job.  But he arrives to find that Lime has been killed in a hit and run car accident and is wanted by the police.  Looking for answers, Martins  uncovers some nasty truths about Lime. 

Despite being on screen for only a short time, Orson Welles is the perfect Moriarty, intellectually brilliant, articulate, urbane and utterly indifferent to his friends. The final chase through the sewers of Vienna is pure noir, the unromantic ending logical. When visiting  Vienna, do check out the Third Man Walking Tour .

4.  thFARGO (Joel & Ethan Coen) A police  thriller where the misery of a North Dakota winter and the mundanity of Midwest culture work as well as the mean streets of noir. 

A beleaguered car salesman (William Macy) conspires with a pair of criminals to kidnap his wife for money and to get revenge on his rich father-in-law. Naturally things go pear-shaped, partly due to the dogged investigation by the local – and  heavily pregnant- police chief (Frances McDormand). 

Some really macabre scenes – we all know what’s gonna happen with that wood chipper – and lots of dark humour.  Who can forget Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) burying the ransom money in the endless snow along the highway then marking the spot with a tiny ice scraper?  Ordinary folks and petty criminals alike die because they’re not equipped to deal with true evil, as portrayed by Danish Shakespearean actor, Peter Stormare. For once good triumphs over evil…sort of.

 

3.  The_Asphalt_Jungle_posterTHE ASPHALT JUNGLE (John Huston)  The heist film that spawned the caper subgenre. Classic noir: tough criminal characters, mean streets, desperate motivations, greed and corruption. 

Four criminals and a corrupt lawyer conspire to rob a fortune in jewels, but are undone by mutual treachery and unforeseen hitches in their plan. Great performances by Sterling Hayden and Sam Jaffe. Interestingly, the film features the debut of Marilyn Monroe as the elderly lawyer’s young mistress. At the time, she wasn’t big enough to be on the movie poster!

 

 2.  thTOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles) Tough choice between my top two favs: they’re really a tie.

 I first saw Touch of Evil on late night TV. Deemed weird and disturbing at the time, I secretly loved it and still do. Seeing it now, I believe that the film was too truthful for the time because of its candid portrayal of police corruption and violence. Today it’s listed as one of the best films of the 20th century.

In the story, two people are killed when a car bomb goes off at a border crossing between the USA and Mexico. The veteran American cop, Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles), wants a quick solution and plants evidence to frame the most likely suspect, a Mexican citizen. Vargas, the Mexican detective (Charleton Heston), stands up to Quinlan with blowback that nearly kills him and his American wife, Susie (Janet Leigh).

Classic noir: mean streets, corruption, nasty characters, drugs, illicit sex, but much, much more. The film foreshadows tech noir: the final confrontation between Quinlan and Vargas takes place in a decayed industrial setting. It’s brutally frank about the bullying nature of American-Mexican relations, the corruption of male cronyism and women’s vulnerability in a patriarchal society.  Some neat touches: Mercedes McCambridge plays a frankly lesbian hoodlum. For readers who don’t know her, McCambridge was the voice of the demon in The Exorcist.

Orson Welles is amazing as bloated, uber-corrupt, sixtyish Hank Quinlan; impossible to believe that he was only 43 at the time.  Incredible, surreal scenes between him and Marlene Dietrich as his former mistress and the owner of a Mexican bordello. The single 3-minute tracking shot at the start of the film, that follows the convertible with the ticking time bomb, made cinematic history.

 

1. SunsetBoulevardfilmposterSUNSET BOULEVARD (Billy Wilder) Not just my favorite film noir, but one of my all-time favs period. In the story, a broke screen writer, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is trying escape the repo men. He hides out on the grounds of a mysterious Hollywood mansion inhabited by a forgotten star of the silent movies, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).  Determined to make a comeback, Norma hires Gillis to rewrite her awful screenplay. Gillis figures it’s easy money, so he agrees, but gradually he becomes Norma’s boy-toy. When he decides to escape, well, guess what happens.

Like all great films, Sunset Boulevard is much more than its gripping story. It’s about the tragedy of vanity and delusion – and the price paid by enablers.  It’s also about the cost of refusing to accept change and abandoning your self-worth for easy money.

Gloria Swanson gives a legendary performance as Norma Desmond as does Erich von Stronheim portraying Max, her ex-husband who works as her butler. (Sick or what?) Wonderful gothic sets. Who can forget the image of the dead chimpanzee’s funeral or the rats in the dry swimming pool?

Billy Wilder broke several Hollywood conventions: many celebrities played themselves ( Buster Keaton, Cecil B. DeMille) and the narrator is a dead man. Truly one of the most haunting and satisfying endings in the movies when Norma walks into the camera for her close-up.

SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Marshmallow Salad at the Legion!

You think I’m kidding, dear Readers? No need to wait for a time machine. Merely hop in your  smug-emitting hybrid and head down to Huron County in August.

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Fab fruit & veggies

Fall fairs are big here. It’s still possible to be a big fish, or even a small fry, in your local pond without competing with the millions and millions served on the internet.  You can find fame growing the largest vegetable, making cakes with vegetables, crafting fantasy planters, great pies or jams and pickles.

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Biggest vegetable winner : did aliens visit?
Veggie birthday cake: not as good as money cake!
Veggie birthday cake: my dad would have made me eat it!
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Gandalf lives!

The handmade quilts and tapestries are especially awe-inspiring: all hand sewn. True artistry!!

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Each weed is an individually sewn strand!
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All hand sewn!

Pies are a fall fair staple. Not only in a variety of contests but best of all for eating!  The variety is huge: apple, rhubarb, strawberry, blueberry, pecan, pumpkin, raisin.  If you can dream it, you can enjoy it here.

We manage to drive through Stratford regularly without getting infected by Shakespeare but summer stock comedy greatly appeals so we headed to the Blyth festival. If Truth Be Told turned out to be a well-acted drama about local heroine and Nobel prize winner, Alice Munro.  Sadly we missed the comedy about the turkey baster…

The theatre package included a country supper at the Legion. Awesome! But we hadn’t counted on the current demographic for summer stock theatre. Suffice it to say that we were the youngest by a lot!

Dinner time on the ticket said 6:15 pm. We wandered up and down the main street of Blyth and finally conceding that we were uncharacteristically early, we walked the 50 feet to the Legion. Rule #1, elderly people always arrive early.  Rule #2, don’t get between the geriatrics and food or there will be blood. At 6:00 pm there wasn’t a seat to be had except two up against the wall in the corner at the furthest distance from the bar and the washroom.

My childhood Sunday dinner!
My childhood Sunday dinner!

Food as expected was “meat, potatoes and two veg” and the roast was cooked the way my dad liked it, black all the way through. Portions were huge and the volunteer wait staff friendly. But what’s this? Something that looked like miniature coloured marshmallows in a creamy dressing. No, that couldn’t be. But yes MARSHMALLOW salad! I didn’t think they made rainbow, mini-marshmallows anymore.

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Huron County: the Jurassic Park of retro brands!!

It tasted the way you’d expect it to taste. But when in Rome… And I slather chutney, red pepper jelly, etc on my cheese and meats so the sugar sin was probably the same.

Ed was delighted to find Old Vienna on tap, a beer he hadn’t seen since he guzzled it as an engineering undergrad.  Huron County: the veritable Jurassic Park of retro brands.

And dessert was pie, of course, but lemon meringue and banana cream disappeared long before the waitress ploughed through the crowd to reach our Arctic exile. We settled for pecan and pumpkin – both damn good! – but skipped the watery, grey coffee. Americanos at the fancy new hipster bar across the street proved a salvation – and our true urban nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WANDERINGS: Street Art – Defilement & Rebirth

East York wanderings with TO Poet  revealed a fab gallery of street art in East York and motivated me to explore the alleyways of my own hood. My explorations revealed some hidden, lushly vined and mysterious trails, but sad to say, the garage doors and garden walls remain empty canvasses.

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Welcome any artists who venture here…

But how could I forget the Man Fish of Bayview? Our single example of street art, adorning the side wall of a vintage barbershop. I pass by it nearly every day – so often, it’s become invisible via mundanity. I found it defiled by the ubiquitous graffiti tags that lurk in our hood’s hidden corners / canvases. Proof that we’re regularly explored, but, sorry folks, no art yet.

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Defiled Man Fish

So I struck further afield. And there, tucked away in a hidden alley parallel to the  subway tracks, I struck relative gold. The murals decorating the backs of the buildings may reflect the biz enterprises facing Yonge Street.

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TTC car, not exactly as illustrated
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What, no helmet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Disgruntled diners
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More disgruntled diners

 

 

 

 

 

They ate there?
They ate there?

Even further afield, spectacular treasure on St. Clair Avenue West, an 8-storey masterpiece allegedly the world’s largest street mural by artist, Phlegm, whose black and white surreal visions of the man machine are world famous.

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Birth of the man machine!

Starting July 8, 2016, Phlegm painted the mural via hair-raising swing stage over the next four weeks. He was assisted by Stephanie Bellefleure.  To see the details of the buildings in the figure, have a look here.

The mural was made possible, in part through StreetARToronto (StART), a city department that tries to beautify Toronto through street art – and thereby make it a tourist destination. It funds one well-known artist per year.

Ah-ha! That’s why we stumble upon well-done murals depicting historical or cultural mythology – and other more vibrant and subversive stuff! (More in my next blog)

Phlegm’s 8-storey Man Machine depicts famous Toronto buildings like the CN Tower, Casa Loma, the Mackenzie house, ya-da, ya-da.  Funding etc. also through the STEPS Initiative and Slate Management who wanted to give the Yonge and St. Clair area a much-needed boot up its esthetic, business and cultural arse. Let’s hope it works!

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz ShelukI first met Judy through Toronto Sisters in Crime when she organized a crime writers' reading in East Gwillimbury. Judy's debut novel, The Hanged Man's Noose, was published in 2015 and her second novel, Skeletons in the Closet, this month, August, 2016.

Judy's short crime fiction has appeared in the anthologies: World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy and I share a passion for sports. Did you know that she completed a half iron man? Wow! And she's also biked in the Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Do visit Judy on her website / blog, A Writer's Journey, where she generously shares her experiences with the writing life and interviews and supports other authors. Here is the link: www.judypenzsheluk.com


Your blog is called One Writer’s Journey, where you enjoy sharing your personal experiences as a writer.

Yes, my blog first appeared on April 2, 2013. I wrote about my experience having three flash fiction stories (not crime fiction) published in THEMA, a New Orleans-based literary journal. At the time, I probably had about 10 followers.

I publish once or twice a week, but I take most of July off all social media and recharge.

The most successful blogs are based on one’s personal passion. What passion(s) led you to create your blog?

When I was writing my first book, The Hanged Man’s Noose, I thought it would be easy to sell it. The protagonist’s sidekick owns an antiques shop, and I’ve been the Senior Editor at New England Antiques Journal since 2007. I had also developed a strong reputation as a freelance writer, with articles in dozens of U.S. and Canadian publications.

It didn’t make a bean of difference!

So, I wanted to let other writers know they weren’t alone in their journey of rejection (did you Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was rejected 61 times?). And I wanted readers to know I was honest and willing to share my experiences with them.

Tell us about your followers.

Most of my followers are in the US and Canada, but also in the UK. And I had a woman from Australia bid on my “Have Judy name a character in her next book after you” at the Bouchercon 2015 Raleigh fundraiser auction. So that was cool.

I like to think my followers enjoy the honesty about the writing journey. I do interview other authors, and I have introduced a New Release Mondays to showcase fellow authors, but people seem to love it when I say, “Hey, I’m just like you. My life isn’t perfect, either.”

What has been your strangest feedback?

So far, nothing crazy…crossing fingers that stays the same. But I remember doing a book signing at Chapters in St. Catharines, Ontario. A woman holding Louise Penny’s latest told me she wouldn’t buy my book because she didn’t read Canadian crime fiction!

What have proved to be your most popular topics?

Without question, my most popular blog was the one titled “Calling all Agents,” published February 15, 2016. (Do read it here http://wp.me/p3yeUA-DE )

Another of my most popular posts was called “The First Cut is the Deepest” where I talk about an agent I met at Bloody Words 2012 (Toronto) and the lessons I learned. I published it in January 2015. ( http://wp.me/p3yeUA-Cs )

Polls also do well. I’ve done polls on where people write, where people read, and what format people read in. I use Polldaddy, which is easy and people seem to like voting. But you have to keep it simple.

You also interview many other authors on your blog. Do tell us more.

When it’s an interview with an author, I ask the author to tackle something about writing. For example, Cori Lynn Arnold wrote about setting her book, Northern Deceit in North Pole, Alaska (which is a real place). I’ve also interviewed publishers, and ask them what they’re looking for/not looking for/what excited them/turns them off.

Probably my favorite guest post was Guelph, Ontario, author Joanne Guidoccio’s post on Open Mic Readings. She gave straight forward advice and it came at a time when I needed it! (Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p3yeUA-11O )

What’s next for Judy?

My debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015 by Barking Rain Press. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in my Marketville Mystery Series, was published this August, 2016 by Imajin.

Skeletons in the Attic Front Cover

I’m always thrilled to have new followers for my blog (see the link above). I also put out a newsletter, at no fixed schedule, two to three times a year. Here’s the link for that: http://eepurl.com/b4cQvP

Thank you, Judy. It was a pleasure to have you on Cyber Café. And congratulations on your new book!

BIG NEWS: Glow Grass and Other Tales Published This Fall!

Greetings Readers!

This eerie picture is the cover art for my upcoming book, Glow Grass and Other Tales, published by Carrick Publishing.

My short fiction has appeared in several anthologies, print magazines and ezines. In Glow Grass though you can read seven stories and two novellas at once, including my Arthur Ellis short-listed thriller, Glow Grass itself.

2013-05-19 16.31.42

Re-reading my stories, I see that they are noir, but the beginning tale, “Kill the Boss” and the ending novella, Amdur’s Cat, are comic romps born out of my frustration while working for the government. My tribute to Yes, Minister.

Many of the stories are winners or finalists for awards: Arthur Ellis, Derringer and Bony Pete.

I’ll keep you posted about the upcoming cyber launch and print launch of Glow Grass, most probably in mid to late October.

SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Barbies…No Escape!

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Ah, Montreal!
NEWS FLASH! Our street's cool took a hit last week when police raided our local weed shop. Sigh! Closed until further notice but its owners urge us to contact our MP's. The cat café is still there though...
Scroll down to read the full blog below: Our Street is Now Cool

 

Visiting Montreal, my fav decayed beauty. Drifted around its Underground City to escape the blistering 35 degree heat and stumbled upon Les Cours Mont-Royal.

Architecturally tres interessant, it sports neat tile work, Harry Potter-like staircases and a 12-storey atrium built into the courtyard of a heritage building. Lots of chandeliers – even in the food courts.  The hoped-for high-end stores? Well, Montreal is broke, people…

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If you build it, they really won’t come. No, really.

But, readers, it was really hot outside so I drifted some more and the Surreal Trapdoor opened at the Barbie Expo. Argh!

I am American!
I am American!

Quintessentially American, the expo displays hundreds of Barbies in glass cases and professes to give all donations to a crippled children’s charity.  Many of the dolls represent American icons, see Statue of Liberty above, as well as show biz idols. Witness Exhibit A:

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Wicked Witch of the West
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Tippi Hedren in The Birds
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Carol Burnett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbie is big biz. Loadsa money made from little girls who have absorbed gender stereotyping from birth. Look like the straight white American male’s sex fantasy and rake in money and status: big boobs, big hair and an empty plastic head are your ticket to ride!

Little clue, this James Bond diorama. The ultimate straight white male fantasy: every woman is a Barbie!

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I’ll take the Daniel Craig doll though! Om, nom, nom!

I guess you can tell I’m not a fan. Proud to say neither was our daughter. Her favorite trick was to put Barbie’s plastic head on her index finger and recite: “I have a little tiny brain.”

To keep up with the times, I spotted some bizarre turns. Ethnic and show-girl costumes are interchangeable. Witness more Exhibit A:

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Politically incorrect Barbie
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Buy shoes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit though that I kinda liked this one:

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Zombie bride Barbie!

CYBER CAFE: Meet Rosemary Aubert

Rosemary HP
Rosemary Aubert is a marvel: a poet, award-winning novelist, editor, visual artist and a sought-after speaker and teacher, beloved for her generosity in sharing her extensive knowledge and encouraging fellow artists. She is also a criminologist who worked for many years in Canada's court system.

In crime fiction circles, Rosemary is best known for her popular, critically acclaimed Ellis Portal series. But she has also penned a gripping noir novella, Terminal Grill and short fiction. Her story, "The Midnight Boat to Palermo", winner of the Arthur Ellis Award, is both poignant and terrifying and one of my personal favorites.

For details about Rosemary's new works and her events and seminars, follow her website.

Your first love  has always been poetry. How did you start writing?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in poems and storytelling. What attracted me were the things read to me by my mother, father and grandmother, especially at bedtime. What I consider to be my first publication was a poem published in the school paper when I was 18. I remember being rejected by Hallmark Cards when I was little. I had sent them a verse and they sent me back a card that said, “Better Luck Next Time.”

I picked poetry then for the same reason I write it now. It’s fast, it’s beautiful and it tells the truth.

Your readers may be surprised to learn that you worked many years as a romance writer and editor. Do tell us about it!

I was looking for a job and I dropped by Harlequin unannounced. Someone at my library job had told me that Harlequin was hiring. Well, to my great good luck, they were. The person who was supposed to be there for the job interview didn’t show up so they hired me instead—on the spot. That’s how I became a Harlequin editor. Later on, I became a writer there as well.

I was attracted to the romance genre because I thought, and still think, that romance is one of the greatest experiences a human can have. I haven’t had a romance published in a long time, but you can probably get one of my old ones for ten cents somewhere on the internet!

Why did you turn to crime fiction?

Like so many of my students, what attracted me to crime writing was a pair of detectives that I loved without reservation: Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes. What attracted me then, I think, was the power of logic. What attracts me now, after reading hundreds upon hundreds of mysteries and after having published my own novels as well as working as a criminologist for many years, is the insight such works give the reader into the reality of being a human being: a normal one, a criminal one and one in whom both worlds meet. Which is to say—almost everyone.

Your first crime fiction short story won the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award.

Yes, “The Midnight Boat to Palermo” is a story of desperation, murder, cleverness and regret. I can’t remember exactly where I got the idea for it, but it probably was after reading a true-fact account of the Sicilian trade in opium. It also makes use of my grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti sauce!

 Your popular Ellis Portal novels have won and been short-listed for many awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award. How did you come to write this enduring series?

That would take a book in itself to explain. . One day a character came to me and said, “I am Ellis Portal. Write about me.” (BTW Ellis Portal’s name was inspired by the sign on a tunnel in the TTC subway system. We challenge readers to find it. – MH Callway)

I wanted to write about crime, Toronto, the street and homelessness. I also wanted to write about decline from a great height.

Your recent book, Don’t Forget You Love Me, is the sixth in the Ellis Portal series. Will there be a seventh book?

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Ellis has recently told me that our work together is done.

Your novella, Terminal Grill, took a dark turn. Why noir?

41-IPp5BlaL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What led me to write Terminal Grill was the setting, not only in the physical bar, which is a real place, but in the underworld of poetry in Toronto. Though I don’t think that world is as hidden now as it once was. And I wanted to write another romance, even if it was a dark and frightening one.

Of all my work, it seems to me that Terminal Grill has had the most overwhelmingly positive response from my readers.

 

What would you like to tell your readers?

I love my readers. I love their comments, which have always been positive. I love it when a complete stranger tells me that they read and liked my books.

The strangest feedback I ever got was from a man who told me he’d found all sorts of factual errors in one of my books. He said that nevertheless, he liked it and had read it superfast. When I looked up the errors, there were none. He’d read the book so fast he got it all wrong!

Tell us what’s next for Rosemary Aubert.

I’m hoping to launch my new book, The Midnight Boat to Palermo and Other Stories in the fall. You can learn about this and other appearances I’ll be making on my website: www. rosemaryaubert.com.

NEWS: Limestone Expo – Fab Cross Genre Con

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Limestone Genre Expo, a 2-day conference for authors and fans of genre lit,  took place in Kingston, Ontario July 23-24th.  Organizers, Liz Strange, Delina MacDonald and Marlene Smith created the conference in 2015 to support Eastern Ontario writers of fantasy, science fiction, horror, romance, YA and crime fiction.

Science fiction, fantasy, graphic and horror authors have intermingled for years at conferences like Comiccon, Fan Expo and When Words Collide.  Crime fiction is a relative new-comer to these events, but likely to become more popular in the intensifying search for readers and with the retirement of Canada’s late great national crime writing conference, Bloody Words.

This was my first cross genre conference. Starting with a local conference proved to be both comfortable and enriching.  Several  of my crime writer friends were attending: among them Rob Brunet,  Vicki Delany, Madonna Skaff and Linda Wiken. And I have a deep affection for Kingston. I studied Chemistry at Queen’s University back when T. rex ruled the earth and OHIP was the major client of my IT consulting business.  Ed and I made a weekend of it, staying at the wonderful Rosemount Inn, a Victorian mansion which looks haunted and reputedly is.

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Ira Nayman
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Me flogging Windigo Fire

My table mate in the vendor’s room was Ira Nayman,  political satirist, science fictioneer and aardvark lover. Ira generously helped me set up my book display and we had great conversations about life, the universe and everything when the author panels were running.

Brian Lindsay
Brian Lindsay

In the vendor’s room, I met Brian Lindsay, fellow crime writer and Arthur Ellis finalist for Best First Novel.  Brian is an imagist, chef and indie author of the Gilmore Island mysteries, set on an island near Westport, Ontario. Old Bones, which I’m enjoying now, is his first novel.

I also enjoyed meeting crime writer, poet, musician and reviewer, Bob Mackenzie.

 

The conference was a well- thought-out mix of panels, workshops, author readings.  There was a pitch session hosted by Five Rivers Publishing and a conversation with Jay Odjick, creator and executive producer of the animated TV show, Kagagi: The Raven.

Each genre had at least one panel specifically devoted to it. The crime fiction panel was “Modus Operandi, From Cozies to Private Eyes” , a broad topic to be sure, but a fine introduction of the genre to new readers.

Linda Wiken
Linda Wiken

Liz Strange had asked me to step in as moderator for the YA panel with authors: Y.S. Lee, Alyssa Cooper, Maureen McGowan, Kim McDougall and Suzanne Church. The facilities at the Kingston Frontenac Library were pretty good, but like many modern buildings, meeting rooms are scarce: one large upstairs space and two much smaller rooms, where you really got to know the audience!

Madonna Skaff
Madonna Skaff

YA is hot right now.  Virtually every literary agent is begging for it. Our audience was too large for the room and the fire marshal notwithstanding, everyone crowded in SRO. The panel graciously gave up their chairs to the audience and spent the entire hour’s discussion on their feet!

Vicky Delany
Vicky Delany

Some observations about YA: people of all ages read it. Why? For the strong story lines, shorter book lengths and relatively uncomplicated language; in other words, a fast read.  YA many times deals with tough topics. Why? People see hard things on the media and through the internet every day. Parents can’t shield children as they once did. And the good news: Younger people are reading thanks to YA. Indeed research suggests most readers are younger than 35 or over 60!

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Goth author and film maker Jen Frankel

Often, it seems that genre writers are silo-ed: crime writers mostly meet other crime writers and crime fiction readers. But conferences like Limestone Expo recognize that readers often read and love several different genres. And authors today share the same concerns. Panels were held on traditional vs. indie publishing, the portrayal of women, disability and LGBTQ2 identities.

 

My own panel, Monstrous Imaginings,  proved to be great fun. (The cross genre panel: Jen Frankel, Caroline Frechette, Evan May, Alyssa Cooper, Robin Riopelle and me.) The topic allowed us to freely interpret what “monsters” mean in crime fiction, romance, YA, horror, etc. We went a little wild and the audience seemed to enjoy that!

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Liz Strange

Liz plans to continue the conference next year.  Many thanks to Liz and the organizers for their hard work and a most enjoyable two days!